TEAM New Zealand has slipped into fourth place in the Volvo Ocean Race as the six-strong fleet readies to round New Caledonia and head for Auckland on the 5200 mile fourth leg from Sanya in China.
Team New Zealand’s Camper and third-placed Telefonica tacked and headed east, while fourth leg leaders Groupama and Puma tried to translate their easterly separation into genuine distance ahead.
As the boats prepare to round the 300 mile long land mass of New Caledonia to the west, its large wind shadow is causing concern and will likely cause the fleet to push south before making the left turn for New Zealand.
Team New Zealand skipper Chris Nicholson says the land shadow could have a telling effect on the race.
“It’s amazing the effect these mountains have on the breeze in this part of the world,” he said.
“We went under an island yesterday and we were 60 miles away and we felt the wind shadow from that very hard on us. So we will be careful of that and continue on our journey south.”
Nicholson also believes that the complex and unstable weather situation developing for the final stage of the leg from New Caledonia to Auckland means that anything could happen and opportunities may open up.
“There’s opportunities here, I think, for every team at the moment — and that ranges between a first or a last in this leg. Certainly nothing can be taken for granted at the moment.”
Latest estimates predict the race leaders will arrive in Auckland late on Saturday or early Sunday morning.